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It's time to plant Tomatoes

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tomato1.jpgOn your marks – get set – go! It's time to plant Tomatoes 

Labour weekend is the traditional time to plant tomatoes, This season I have flagged growing my own plants from seed because I simply never got round to sowing the seeds. I have all sorts of reasons for this, which we don’t need to dwell on. The upside to this is that I have been able to plant in my glasshouse a great range of varieties. To date I have 10 tomatoes planted in my new glasshouse, each a different variety. I am happy to report all are doing fabulously well, it’s very exciting. I will still plant a few rows in my outside garden beds as I want to be able to compare the flavour of indoor versus outdoor. My gut feeling is that the ones grown outside will be better - time will tell.


tomato2.jpgIf you are super organised unlike me and are growing your own plants from seed, note that, the plants need to be acclimatised or hardened off as us in the industry call it, before they can be planted outside in the garden. I am sure you will probably know this already as you were onto enough to sow your seeds early enough. However, for any first time gardeners it’s important to know that the shock of going from a cosy windowsill to a windy outdoor garden can be too much for some soft tomato plants.  Garden centres are well stocked with a wide range of tomato plants now as I well know! For tips on how to grow tasty tomatoes watch the tomato video at www.tuitime.co.nz or read on below


Tips for success:

Preparation:
First, choose a sunny place, which is sheltered from strong winds. Prepare the soil in the garden by digging it over, and blending in compost or well-rotted manure and Tui Tomato Food.  Next, incorporate Tomato Mix to the area, using a specialised planting mix will ensure tomato plants get the best possible start and sustained growth.  Water well to ensure the soil is moist and ready for planting. If planting in rows, plant 60cm – 80cm apart to allow plenty of air movement.  
 tomato_kit.jpg
Support
Most tomato plants require staking to provide support to the plants as the fruit ripens and becomes heavy. Put the stake in place before you plant, and then plant the tomato beside the stake, rather than the other way round.  This prevents damaging the delicate young root ball.
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Tomatoes need staking, put stake in ground prior to planting
Planting
Take care when planting out you tomato plants. Water the seedling well prior to planting, next dig a hole larger than the root ball of the plant and blend in some tomato mix, next gently place the root ball into the soil. Fill in the remainder of the hole with soil and firm in. Water well.

 

tomato_oxheart.jpg
Tomato oxheart
 Container Planting
The container it needs to be at least 30 litres in size for each tomato plant - that’s 3 times to size of an average kitchen bucket. Tomato Patio Planters are ideal if you are low on space, simply fill with Tomato potting mix, put in the stake then start planting.
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Tomato tumbling tom is ideal for pots and baskets as it doesnt require staking
 Protect
Protect soft young seedlings as they establish by placing some sort of protection around the tender plants. My father and grandfather use to cut manuka branches and push them into the ground around the delicate young seedlings to protect them while they got established. It didn’t look that tidy but it certainly worked a treat. . Any rigid evergreen shrub could be used, I use Leyland cypress, but Pittosporums, Olearia or other conifers work well too. Nowadays many people choose to use plastic tunnels or shade cloth are reliable options
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Tomatoes and Basil
 Feed
Tomatoes enjoy a lot of fertiliser, be careful not to over load them with fertilisers high in nitrogen.  Apply Tomato Food, which is high in Potash (Potassium - K). Potassium is essential for enhancing fruit, flower production, and enhance the “juiciness” of the fruit.  Water plant food in well after application.

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Maintenance
Water tomatoes regularly, preferably in the morning 2 or 3 times a week, but never in the middle of the day. Apply Saturaid to soil surrounding plants, this will draw water to the roots where it is needed most.
Remove laterals, these are the crazy looking side branches that appear above the leaves on the main trunk of the plant. Laterals suck a lot of goodness from the plant and limit fruit production. Tie the main stem to the stake, as it gets taller to protect from wind.
tomato3.jpg
Tomato laterals are not ideal, remove as they appear

Popular varieties:

Beefsteak – possibly the tastiest large tomato ever, needs lots of room

Cherry tomatoes
– easy to grow, ideal for pots, kids love them!

Heirloom
– numerous varieties, cropping ability varies, generally very tasty, this season I have five heirloom varieties planted.

Money maker
– the eternal favorite for many gardeners, tasty, reliable and abundant cropper. Last year this was my best performer.

Patio Prize
– small dwarf variety perfect for pots, this season I am growing this one inside, and will let it hang down over the sides of my raised beds.

Roma
– Acid Free. As the name suggests low acid varieties, pear shaped

Taupo
– popular, reliable and prolific fruiting.

Suggest if you are out and about this weekend hunting for tomato plants, pick up some basil at the same time, they are a lovely planting combination.
For more tips on how to grow tasty tomatoes watch the tomato video at www.tuitime.co.nz

Happy gardening